On Tesla

Rather than engage in a point/counterpoint, here are some thoughts on my favorite investment:

Tesla had 455,000 paid-for pre-orders as of a month ago, increasing at the then rate of 1800/day. This is astounding - completely unprecedented in automotive history. What other car comes within an order of magnitude of this? Only Model S.

Tesla is ramping up to sell 500,000 cars next year. To put that into perspective, it took Nissan 7 years to sell half that number of cheaper Leafs worldwide, and 6 years for Chevy to sell under 100K Volts. Musk believes that steady state demand for Model 3 is about 700K units a year.

Tesla had about $7 Billion in revenue last year. Tesla’s 2018 expectation of 500K cars (Model S, 3, and X) at an ASP of 45K is $22.5 Billion, 4 times as large. That’s a lot of cash flow. Yeah, Tesla will find ways to spend that money (Model Y, Semi-trucks, Gigafactories), but if they want to show a profit, they’ll easily be able to.

The entrenched Automotive OEMs are innately unable to compete. I’ve worked with people who have worked at American, German, and Japanese OEMs. First, the companies are structured to be conservative and avoid mistakes. A failed model is an expensive failure (high up front costs and low margins), so everything is setup to avoid that. Committees review everything, and execs review the committees. They take their time doing anything and everything. In Silicon Valley, working on a failed project or for a failed company shows you were willing to take a risk and do something new. In the automotive world, it’s the kiss of death, so no-one sticks their neck out for anything.

And that’s without even talking about the profit their dealers take, which Tesla gets to keep. And in terms of buying experience, it took GM about 5 minutes to decide to close Saturn down. The recession was the excuse they had been looking for for years.

Even famous Tesla valuation critic Aswath Damodaran says that Tesla: “is blessed with the worst competition on the face of the earth. The automobile business is full of badly managed, badly run companies.”

And that’s before realizing how hard it is to change-over a big company with established products and now out-dated infrastructure. Even companies that want to make the change will have a tough time. Volumes start too low to matter to them. They lose not only first mover advantages, but don’t gain the years of experience working with the new technology. It’s structurally difficult to switch over. For instance, Mercedes just announced that they can go electric, but that it’ll hurt their profit margins considerably. Will Mercedes stock holders tolerate very low profits for the half decade or more that it’ll take to complete the change-over and then be profitable again? Probably not, which will make raising money to fund the effort that much harder.

Tesla has a huge moat with their SuperChargers. If you’ve actually thought about buying an EV as your only car, which means even some road tripping, your choice is between Model S and X and now 3. That’s it - all Teslas. Just thinking the SC network up was totally out of the boxing thinking. Today, what’s startling is that other companies only build chargers when forced to. NRG was fined in 2012 by CA, and the penalty was to spend $100 Million on EV chargers (they since sold the charges to EVgo). Similarly, VW is spending $800 Million on chargers as partial fines for diesel-gate. But, there are no cars that have those locations programmed into their Navigation systems to route you on long distance trips, not to mention that can also tell you whether they’re in use or not. And, don’t forget Tesla’s chargers are the fastest in the world. Chademo tops out at 50kW, J1772 “FrankenPlug” at 90kW (if any actually exist at that capacity with any cars that can handle that, which I doubt), while Teslas can routinely do 120kW.

And all this is before even considering Tesla Energy, which many at Tesla believe will be even larger eventually. It’s literally as if Tesla’s plan is to use EVs simply to create demand for its energy products! Why else do you think they encourage competition and give away their patents? Because more EVs means more Tesla Energy sales!

OK, so yeah, I can get too enthusiastic. But, when I read people “worried” about 455K pre-orders, I’m astounded at the lack of recognition of what’s really going on - compare that to less than 2K sales of Bolts each month. And when I read that people are thinking that the entrenched automotive OEMs are actually going to compete at Tesla’s level, it makes me laugh. If that’s what you believe, you need to read Clayton Christensen’s “Innovator’s Dilemma,” especially the bit about the steam excavator companies competing with upstart hydraulics. Even the steam companies that went to steam/hydraulic hybrids (some familiar?) went bankrupt. In the end, every one of the steam companies went out of business. Every. Single. One.

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My big questions about Tesla:

Will (lack of) reliability of their cars in much larger quantities kill them, or will all their enthusiast customers keep them alive?

How much of a drag on finances was the acquisition of Solar City? And how screwy is their accounting in general?

How many cars will they actually be able to produce in a year?

What will happen when the Japanese come out with very reliable electrics at moderate prices?

Is Tesla THE story stock of our time?

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Hey Smorgasbord:

OK, I’ll bite on your points and offer over the “Duma challenge” that no one yet has defeated…but maybe you will be the first:

Please produce the financial assumptions to justify TSLA’s PRESENT market cap.

Here are the main issues in cursory form:

  1. TSLA has not generated a profit and would NEVER have generated a profit from the S model or X. The math didn’t work out…price point is just too high for mass adoption and there isn’t enough revenue/margin to generate profit in these higher model cars…anyone could see demand was not high enough. Check out their (and others) demand side here:

http://insideevs.com/monthly-plug-in-sales-scorecard/

  1. Even “if” TSLA can mass produce the 3 and get a total of 500,000 cars annually at say average MRSP of $50,000 (a high price point for mass adoption BTW), that is still only $25 Billion per year. Compare that to FORD that generates $152 Billion per year (6 times the estimated FUTURE revenue of TSLA) and yet still TSLA has 32% larger market cap that FORD???

TSLA has a market cap of $61 BILLION vs Ford at $46 BILLION…please explain that math in detail…especially based on sales figures above.

And before you throw out the Clayton references, about Ford being old school, keep in mind that all of these established companies will go wherever the market is and right now…that ISNT’T with battery power. But they all have TSLA equivalents available now or coming…see yesterday’s announcement of BMW’s 400 mile per charge car…beautiful! The German manufacturers are on it as is Volvo, Toyota, etc. The competition doesn’t just lay down…they go wherever the market goes…and they are very well capitalized.

  1. The margins on the 3 will be smaller…and the profits are going to be smaller and more challenging with lower price points. It also remains to be seen whether future purchasers of the 3 are still so enamored when they realize it isn’t an S.

  2. The present gigafactory was not designed to handle indefinite growth…there will need to be several more if TSLA is to continue to grow to levels that other gas manufactures are producing now…that simply increases their cost further into the future such that each successive leap in auto sales is accompanied by increased infrastructure costs…it isn’t like this one gigafactory would handle their future needs…and they are VERY expensive to construct.

  3. We are greater than 5 years away from price/cost of ownership parity of battery power automobiles to ICE…that cost difference will remain a hurdle to mass adoption.

I could go on to many counterpoints (Solarcity, etc.) but will stop here because no one has ever defeated just the above 5 point challenge regarding the market cap vs projected sales…and I know that many investors in TSLA can be almost evangelical about this company so please take what I am saying as a purely unemotional dollars and cents, compare and contrast, financial metric type analysis…and not an assault on any belief system.

Peace!

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2) Even “if” TSLA can mass produce the 3 and get a total of 500,000 cars annually at say average MRSP of $50,000 (a high price point for mass adoption BTW), that is still only $25 Billion per year.

That would represent a YoY revenue growth of 200% - 300% (depending how you count it). That kind of stock would certainly be worth at least 10 times the revenue, which would make it a 4 bagger if you get in today. Not exact numbers of course, the stock will get diluted, it might also get traded at 20-30 times revenues etc. But that’s the ballpark you are looking at. In best case. In worst case you lose most of your investment.

Welcome to growth stock math.

Not everybody can stomach it. It’s risky, but the TSLA stock is not abnormal (the .com bubble where growth stocks were trading at 300 x Revenue was abnormal).

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TSLA has not generated a profit and would NEVER have generated a profit from the S model or X.

Not true. They had a bottom line profit in the quarter ended 9/30/16 as well as having significant net profit on cars … they just spend it on future growth.

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TSLA has not generated a profit and would NEVER have generated a profit from the S model or X.

While I do not want to get drawn in detailed point/counter point discussion for lack of time, this is simply not true and simply said I have put my money on my conviction over the years and this remains my top 5 positions.

Meditate over the financials every quarter and focus on cash flows and you start seeing the true picture. Add back stock based compensations, depreciation (You can include a nominal amount as Buffet would do it) and various unrecognized revenues, capital investments for future and they are comfortably cash flow positive even now !

This is not counting the fact that various expenses include model 3 R&D and other expenses, the revenue for which will accrue in the next year. They mentioned it there recent earnings call or update letter that the company is already scaled to support model 3, and hence once the revenue will start coming in the operational benefits will start trickling in. I am not yet counting battery storage upside or anything.

Assuming demand holds - which I believe it will, model 3 gross margins stay at 25% at scale as musk has claimed (again no reason to disbelieve Musk), and no catastrophic recall, it is hard not to see how this will not be profitable (can work this out in spreadsheet in some detail). Of course the cash would again be reinvested back in more Giga factories, but that is what Amazon was and is.

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Tesla is ramping up to sell 500,000 cars next year. To put that into perspective,

Ford Mustang sales went from zero to 607,568 in less than two years.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ford_Mustang and they had not planned for those sales numbers
then there is the Model T
Despite multiple posts saying that it can’t be done, in fact it has been done before .

So while I expect Tesla having some trouble ramping to 500,000 within 12 months 18 months has been done before without prior planning.

Also keep in mind VW who went from nothing in 1947 to the world’s biggest car company today. And Toyota and Honda successes. So the auto market is clearly open to new entrants provided they bring something different to the market place
Tesla brings more "new/better/different " to the car business than VW, Toyota, or Honda did . I see TSLA today as a chance to buy VW at a 1950 price

Re TSLA -I have lightened up a bit because I think the odds of some minor bad news are greater than good news prior to next earnings. But I will buy back if I get lower prices in the meantime.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S._Automobile_Production_Fig… interesting show of auto failures like Packard. Who once made some great cars

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That would represent a YoY revenue growth of 200% - 300% (depending how you count it). That kind of stock would certainly be worth at least 10 times the revenue, which would make it a 4 bagger if you get in today

Doubt it Sterils…the day of reckoning is fast approaching for TSLA…it is never different this time…the stock is outrageously priced RIGHT NOW.

You are now going to say that at 1/6 the annual revenue of Ford, TSLA shouldn’t be just 32% more valuable but should instead be 432% more valuable.

That is a very interesting modeling indeed…so a company with revenue of $25 Billion is now worth $240 Billion???

Not true. They had a bottom line profit in the quarter ended 9/30/16 as well as having significant net profit on cars … they just spend it on future growth.

OK right…like when they reported a “profit” back in 2013 that was pure accounting shenanigans from selling the $68 million from selling Zero-Emission Vehicle credits (which it earns under California state laws governing vehicle emissions) to other automakers, and a further $17 million from selling Greenhouse Gas emission credits. It also logged $11 million in warrant liability reversals, along with $7 million in foreign currency adjustments.

Then in 2016, the company had sold a lot of zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) credits…It sold $139 million worth, to be specific…chalking it up to the ZEV credits.

These are not car sales…these are selling credits. Did they or did they not make a profit on sales of cars…simple question.

OK…one evangelical is out…just trying to be unemotional about the whole thing…just stick to the Duma Challenge…5 issues that are not yet explained.

Anyone??? Using basic standard financial metrics.

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TSLA is certainly an interesting company to watch. They are creating some great cars and I believe that the company is making a positive impact on the world by helping to reduce usage of dirty energy by getting people to adopt usage of clean energy for transportation and household electrical needs.

Now TSLA as an investment is another story. I have never owned the stock and I don’t thin kI would ever buy the stock. I really have no way of determining if investing will lead to positive or negative returns for me. How do you value TLSA? There are really a lot of things that need to be executed. There’s government regulations and other government programs (e.g. subsidies or lack thereof) that could impact the success. TLSA might go up 10x or if might not make it. I don’t know. There are a lot of other companies that I can invest in that have great potential with a lot less uncertainty. Why take a chance on TLSA when I can invest in those. To me it makes no sense to invest in TLSA. Perhaps investing in TLSA has a touch of the following:

  1. fear of missing out
  2. a desire to be right about TLSA
  3. a desire to see the world adopt more EVs and use more renewables
  4. looking at the upside without equally considering the downside

I have designed my portfolio to include only companies that can go up 3x in the next few years. Yes, it’s a growth portfolio. I’ve also ordered my allocations in order such the my largest holding has the best combination of conviction, visibility into the future, upside, risk adjust return potential; these are a lot of factors considered and the ranking of my stocks is some combination of these factors including a combo of quantitative and qualitative aspects.

TLSA has a great story, is led by a great visionary who I would never bet against, but I can bet on this company. It’s just too uncertain for me.

Chris

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Hi Chris,

Regarding this comment:

I’ve also ordered my allocations in order such the my largest holding has the best combination of conviction, visibility into the future, upside, risk adjust return potential

I’ve always thought highly of your analysis but don’t remember seeing a list of your positions and allocations, would you be willing to post those?

Thanks,
Mike

" TSLA as an investment is another story."

Of course we an only invest in the Now but in fact TSLA has been an excellent investment in the past.

AFAIK nothing much has changed about the negatives over the last couple of years but the price has gone up.

Thanks for all the reasons you’re not invested in TSLA. It helps me understand why people are not invested in it yet.

Enjoy,
Brian
Long TSLA at about 15% allocation

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I alway smile when I read the financial view points on Tesla, as this stock creates a lot of passion one way or the other.

I have owned Tesla now for a few years, and have enjoyed a great increase. My current thinking is: It is a small 3% of my portfolio, so if it continues to go up or falls through the floor no big deal. I don’t plan on adding or selling anytime soon unless something significantly changes.

This is my only stock I own that I’m not too focused on the numbers. I see this as a story, founder, disrupter stock for me. I really like what Musk is trying to do, and it is enjoyable to watch him disrupt several industries. I guess put me down as a fan club owner.

In addition, one thing I have learned over the years is not to mess with my winners. Tesla has done very well so far for me, so I’m letting it ride. I suspect a large percentage of the stock ownership is made up of folks like me.

David

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This is my only stock I own that I’m not too focused on the numbers. I see this as a story, founder, disrupter stock for me. I really like what Musk is trying to do, and it is enjoyable to watch him disrupt several industries. I guess put me down as a fan club owner.

In addition, one thing I have learned over the years is not to mess with my winners. Tesla has done very well so far for me, so I’m letting it ride. I suspect a large percentage of the stock ownership is made up of folks like me.

Ditto for me David. I got in at about $35 per share. I am enjoying the ride.

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Doubt it Sterils…the day of reckoning is fast approaching for TSLA…it is never different this time…the stock is outrageously priced RIGHT NOW.

Duma - I can see you are very negative on Telsa’s “stock”. A couple of things to consider.

1.) Suppose you are correct with your analysis and the price of the stock falls by 50% or greater - will someone who sells at the current price be clever enough to buy back in at a lower price?

2.) Although your many arguments may be correct they are not unique - they are not new. The market has these arguments.

3.) Spreadsheets with numbers modelling a completely new business model will probably not be accurate, although they will look relevant, complete, and present a misleading view of the future based on models of the past.

4.) If the United States were an NFL team Elon Musk would be designated our “Franchise Player”.

5.) How do you account for SpaceX - it is strategically important to the United States - this gives Musk a seat at the table. He can get capital for his other ventures such as Tesla using his power with SpaceX.

6.) Customers absolutely love the Tesla product - this is undeniable.

Just wanted to get this out there as it would be a shame if folks start selling their shares based on speculation the price may go down in the short term. Then again I have a ten year time horizon, so would not sell my shares on a drop or a rip higher - I would never be able to guess when to get back in.

Your arguments are similar to board postings about Netflix - I have held my shares since 2005 - ignored lot’s of board posts along the way.

Currently TSLA is about 4% of my portfolio and I am not saying you are wrong in the short term, just saying there is another way to look at this.

Frank - long TSLA, long NFLX, see profile for all holdings

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That is a very interesting modeling indeed…so a company with revenue of $25 Billion is now worth $240 Billion???

Anyone??? Using basic standard financial metrics.

You sound like you are new to growth stock investing and also (maybe unintentionally) a little bit arrogant about it. If you looked at growth stock for some time a 10 times revenue valuation would not surprise you.

Let me ask you this what would be a better deal:

  • pay $1000 and get $110 p.a. for the next 10 years
    or
  • pay $1500, get $80 for the first year and then each year 20% more than the previous one for the 9 years after that?
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Duma - I can see you are very negative on Telsa’s “stock”. A couple of things to consider.

Frank:

Please try not to make this about me and just stick to the 5 issues I raised…you have addressed none of them.

You sound like you are new to growth stock investing and also (maybe unintentionally) a little bit arrogant about it. If you looked at growth stock for some time a 10 times revenue valuation would not surprise you.

Sterils:

Please try not to make this about me and instead just stick to the 5 issues I raised.

But then again, I haven’t been called a newbie in quite a while so I guess I should be pleased I got carded.

While you address the 5 issues, if you ever do, maybe you can tell me why you chose to arbitrarily call TSLA (a car company) a growth stock with no earnings trading on basis of P/S…why not call it a biotech and give it a 10 multiple from here.

The irony of inability to address the 5 issues is that with all the analysis done on this board being applied so diligently with your other stocks…on this one, the chosen one…seems many here are very content to disconnect from those same metrics.

But no problem, no one has yet solved the 5 issues so no need to take this personal…it certainly isn’t for me. I shall move on now.

Peace!

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I’ve always thought highly of your analysis but don’t remember seeing a list of your positions and allocations, would you be willing to post those?

Thanks for your comment. I have posted my positions on occasion. Mauser asked me the same question a few weeks ago and I posted them then. I have made a number of changes since then including adding a couple of new ones and ditching one or two. I am reluctant to post them regularly, though. Everyone has different objectives and risk tolerances. Also, this is Saul’s board and he posts his positions monthly. Saul does an excellent job of reviewing his portfolio, and this is really about learning Saul’s methodology. Sometimes what he writes makes so much sense to me that I am influenced to make some changes. Other times, I disagree with Saul on owning a stock (examples: MULE, NEWR, and BL). I have noticed that Saul sometimes also makes changes based on my posts (examples: selling NEWR and BL and buying NVDA). I have thought about this and wonder if many people posting their portfolios could lead to group-think among our group. If so, this would be a negative. I would rather that different views are discussed using the words, logic, and analysis in the posts as opposed to people thinking that “these 2 guys have 21% in SHOP so I should do that too”.

The two new stocks that I own are NKTR (my smallest position) and NTNX (a sizable position). I also sold all my SPLK because I needed the funds to buy NTNX. I first learned about NTNX from Saul on Sunday. I’ve already spent many hours researching it, and I am working on a write-up which I plan to have out sometime this weekend. I will go ahead and post my positions in my next post but I will leave out the allocations; in fact, the allocations would not be totally accurate anyway because I also have short and long options positions on the stocks that I own. I don’t have any options positions on any stocks that I don’t own.

Chris

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I am reluctant to post them…

Fair enough, thanks for the reply, Chris.

Hi Dumaflotchie,
I don’t own TESLA, I put them in the too hard to understand category and I don’t have to decide on every stock…but I can’t resist a challenge so I went back to look at these 5 great challenge points that can’t be answered, and after reading them I decided I will take a shot…

1 the fact that they have made no profits was answered earlier, and SHOP and many others have yet to show a profit so that is not a problem to a growing company.

2 revenues of 1/6 with growth and a profit can be better than more revenues with no growth. Comparing revenues alone is only one thing to look at. Yes it is expensive, but everyone knows that…

3 margins on the 3 will be smaller… well duh, and people might not like the 3? Really that is an argument? Maybe they will??? I would bet on yes if I was a betting man, but who knows?

4 the giga factory is not enough to keep up with expected growth… so let’s see, they are ahead of everyone else and are building a huge factory but that is not an advantage over every other car company who doesn’t have the first factory?? How is this an argument against…

5 the advantage of batteries is still 5 years away… tell that to model S owners or leaf owners. Besides, you are saying in 5 years Tesla is way ahead and ready for a huge market swing, is that your argument?

So now I have answered your 5. Not saying you will agree but they aren’t these incredible points that can’t be argued with… just the down side of very much a story stock.

TESLA is a battle field stock. No doubt, but to be so positive it won’t turn out is about as crazy as saying there is no way It will fail…

Randy
No position in TSLA, but would love to own a TESLA and am n owner of SHOP

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